「夢幻の薄桜」 (Mugen no Usuzakura)
“Light Cherry Blossoms of Dreams”

With Koudou dropping out of the picture earlier than I expected and Kazama intent on settling his score with Hijikata, the possibility of this series ending on a promising note looked rather bleak. In addition, the series has been faithfully adapting the Shinsengumi’s historic events up until now, so Hijikata’s fate looked like it was more or less guaranteed. As someone who was prepared for his eventual death, I wasn’t too surprised to see the tail end of the Battle of Hakodate depict how a bullet pierced Hijikata’s abdomen while he was on horseback heading towards Benten Daiba in support. According to history, this is how the fearless commander of the Shinsengumi met his end, except in this fictional take on it, Chizuru manages to extend his life a little longer with the use of her demon blood. Leading up to that, the brief portrayal of the Naval Battle of Hakodate Bay marked the last encounter between the rebel army and the Imperial forces, and prompted the romance portion of this series that’s been nonexistent up until now. By now, I was left wondering if it was even necessary to throw in a scene with Hijikata confessing his love for Chizuru and telling her that she’s his new-found reason for living, but I did feel that if they were going to do so, now would be it. The reason being, if the relationship aspect of the series had happened sometime over the course of the series, it likely would’ve stolen the focus away from both the Rasetsu and the realistic depiction of events. Between having a romance series with samurai and a samurai one with romance, I much rather prefer the latter one that we got.

As for the ending itself, there’s no denying that it came rather abruptly following Hijikata’s fight with Kazama. There wasn’t even much time to take in how Hijikata managed to kill Kazama in their decidedly final exchange as cherry blossom petals scattered everywhere. As soon as he dropped to his knees and the Rasetsu powers faded from him, the ending sequence started with an epilogue of all of the characters’ final moments. As a result, I was unable to shake the feeling that things ended too quickly, yet I honestly didn’t know what else they possibly could have covered. I guess there’s always the abolishment of the Tokugawa shogunate after Enomoto and Ootori ultimately decide to surrender, though that really isn’t exactly an uplifting turn of events that would have added anything to the story. Instead, it was probably better to end on the sad note like this series has gone for time and time again, with Hijikata dying in Chizuru’s lap from overusing his life energy. It was a sorrow-filled story from the very beginning and I personally wouldn’t have had it any other way given the emotions behind a lot of these scenes. I even got a bit choked up as Chizuru looked to the sky with tears in her eyes, picturing the Shinsengumi in the heavens and still bound by their banner. Included in the group were Saitou and Nagakura, who would actually go on to survive the Boshin War.

From their fight, it’s little consolation for the highlight of this story to be Kazama acknowledging Hijikata’s strength to be that of a true demon and giving him the name “Hakuouki” (Cherry Blossom Demon) — befitting of his actual nickname “Demon Vice-Commander” — but I actually like how it brought some meaning to the title of this series. While it was made light of by Hijikata not caring one bit, it was almost like a joke thrown in at very end, except no one was really expected to laugh at these late stages of the story. I didn’t anyway, as I was caught up in witnessing Hijikata’s final moments. There wasn’t much else to the ending other than how Chizuru would go on living alone. It’s probably the furthest thing from a happy ending, but it’s worth noting that the Shinsengumi were able to protect her until the very end.

Note: I was expecting an extra episode next week, but I’m not so sure anymore when syoboi suggests that this will be the last episode aired. If there is one, I’ll be sure to say a few quick words about it.



Final Impressions:

Despite ending a couple of episodes earlier than I was expecting, this sequel still managed to give a sense of completeness to the story. While it’s a rather cliché statement, I truly feel that this series was more about the adventure than the destination. Ever since there was clear indication that rise and fall of the Shinsengumi would be portrayed faithfully amidst the fictional elements, there wasn’t much in the way of plot twists for viewers who are familiar with this period of Japanese history. As such, much of my enjoyment came from seeing how things happened rather than what happened, which sparked interest in looking up the history of the Shinsengumi so that I could appreciate this interpretation of it more. As I’ve mentioned before, the whole fiction on top of non-fiction aspect is what appealed to me the most, much like it did in Senkou no Night Raid. Without that degree of personal interest, it’s hard to say how much this series would appeal to viewers expecting samurai and romance. Studio DEEN didn’t break the bank with this standard definition production after all, leaving a fair bit to be desired in terms of animation quality. Because of that, it’s probably safe to assume that this series targets a rather niche crowd, which doesn’t necessary mean a female-only audience like the Otomate games did, but definitely one that likes to think a bit when they watch their anime.

Where production was lacking, this series made up for it with all of its emotional scenes. There haven’t been too many tearjerkers this year, and while this series doesn’t really satisfy that criteria either, it did have moments that got me a bit choked up. That was largely due to the deaths of the Shinsengumi captains along the way and their self-sacrificing acts of bravery that would gave me goosebumps. There weren’t many high points in the depiction of the losing side of the war, so I was captivated by the way the characters continued to hold their heads up high, waving their “Honesty/Integrity” banner in the air, when the odds were completely against them. On the surface, this may have been nothing more than a depressing story, except there was never time for tears with a war going on. None of the characters had any time to feel sorry for themselves and instead continued on wherever their courage would take them, and that was what caught my attention the most over the course of the series. To bring all of that emotion out, the ending themes by mao in both the original season and this sequel became a couple of my favorite songs this year. They’re good songs to being with, though I’m sure it helps having all that Shinsengumi imagery associated with them in my mind.

Ultimately, it was the combination of all those emotion-filled scenes with the fairly serious portrayal of samurai that really won me over with Hakuouki. I really do wish that more shows like this are created, where the plot and character interactions are the driving factors, but I’m well aware that these seinen/josei anime aren’t popular enough to be produced regularly. However, that’s just the way the business works, so I’m just grateful a good series that combines samurai action, character development, historic plot, and demons with a dash of romance showed up back in spring. It won’t appeal to everyone, but I still feel this is one of the most underrated series of the year.


  1. wow… too bad Toshi died. well, he’s history anyway and expected to die here.

    and where the heck is Battousai Himura in this series? arghhh! ..ok just kiddin, that’s a different story. 😉

    1. Well I think I’ll have to agree with the Japanese bloggers that part of the emotional impact came from the relentless pacing preventing the story from dragging.

      And the use of the “bad end” in the anime is probably a huge incentive for viewers to go buy the game~ Though personally I prefer this ending since a happy lovey-dovey ending will seem pretty cheap after all these deaths.

  2. I loved the series and hated it at the same time. Was a good story to follow and had many memorable and likeable characters but as the series wore on each week it took something out of you to see one depressing and sad death after another and still end on a downside. I don’t think I have ever seen a series so dreadful (except for maybe the amazing anime Wolf’s Rain). They gave you 1 cor to meet and become friends with all the characters and how they interacted with Chizuru and then in the 2nd cor they killed them off each week.If you care about the characters of animes you watch then you had to feel bad for them.

  3. ive watched the entire 1st season, but for some reasons I just cant bring myself to watch season 2. I knew something was lacking in the anime when I watched the 1st season. I just didn’t want to see it again in the 2nd season. Perhaps I’ll watch it when the Bluray comes out

  4. I wanna pick this up again but I didnt finish first season yet and I dont think it all has been subbed yet.
    I am already having a hard time in catching up with some animes ive chosen this season(MM is on hold) so maybe in christmas bread.

  5. Kan iemand me het uitleggen.
    Ik snap er niets van.
    Hijikata is plotseling dood en chizuru blijft achter is dit echt de laatste episode en zijn harada en nagakura ook dood.
    We hebben niet gezien hoe de doodgingen (als ze dood zijn) en als ze leven zien we niet hoe het met de rest afloop (war Chizuru ook bijhoort)

  6. Can someone explain.
    I do not get it.
    Hijikata’s sudden death left behind and Chizuru is this really the last episode and Harada and nagakura also dead.
    We have not seen how died (on death) and they live as we do not see how the remaining outcome (war Chizuru also belongs)

  7. I’m going to miss this series. One of the best shows I’ve watched this season. I really want to see a conclusion to this series but I guess that won’t happen now. I also want to know what will become of Chizuru after this episode?

    1. @firecow, I agree wholeheartedly! This anime was amazing!
      Show Spoiler ▼

  8. I just checked syoboi and, while I don’t know that much Japanese, I think a few stations have an episode 23 in two weeks and an episode 24 the week after that. I know that this series was mentioned to have “10 + 2” episodes…I guess this is what that means(?)

  9. Ah, what a tragic ending fitting for such a sad show. T___T A part of me still wants to believe that Hijikata stayed alive for a bit longer, especially since the scene after the epilogue doesn’t clearly indicate when/how he died. Nevertheless, the ending was so depressing and I definitely started crying when Chizuru looked up into the sky and saw the Makoto flag and the backs of all of the Shinsengumi captains. ): Too sad…

    Anyways, thank you so much, Divine, for covering the entire second season! 😀 I have always been eagerly awaiting your reviews. I can’t wait to see your impressions of the two extra episodes, too, once they are released. (: Hopefully they will end the series on a happy, light-hearted note! I can’t wait to see everybody alive and together again.

  10. …Actually, they ended it on an ambiguous note about Hijikata’s fate- because after the epilogue, when it shows Chizuru crying and looking up at the sky- a hand is show wiping her tear away and then that final image of him appears like he’s just fine.

    1. I agree with the open ending, Idea Factory really likes to leave room for imagination. Like in the game… ***SPOILERS***

      Show Spoiler ▼

    2. I don’t think that was very ambiguous and open to interpretation though. It seemed pretty clear to me that Chizuru knew he was dead and rhetorically questioned if he’s with the rest of the Shinsengumi now. Hijikata’s hand was from his spirit, since he was still lying in her lap.

      1. I think in the Otome, Hijikata does live when the player chooses his route. It can go either way, considering her vision of ALL of the shinsengumi with their backs turned- which made me initially believe him to be dead as well. But it’s not uncommon for the heroine to think the hero is dead and be corrected by some subtle action of him ‘wiping away tears’, and then again it’s also not uncommon to portray his spirit to wipe away her tears. It can go either way for me. On the other hand, I do appreciate that you covered this series. It was a very good series that went unnoticed.

      2. In the game, Show Spoiler ▼

        However, the anime Show Spoiler ▼

        If you need any more game details, I’ll be happy to look them up!

  11. So Hijikata is actually dead right? And his final image is just her imagination right? T_T
    I played the game and Harada Sanosuke is my most favourite char, not Hijikata but still sad to see his ending in anime T_T. But well, history is history, we can’t change that.

  12. Amazing review. I just finished watching the series, and I’m still a bit awestruck by the ending, and the last episodes in general. Your review was just perfect to read now. It let me see the story in a new light too. And although I did not like the first season very much I do feel the second one was underrated as well. Part of it is that I like sad stories, but it was really well made. And about the romance appearing so late – I agree with you. I’m glad they haven’t put it in the earlier episodes, it would destroy the atmosphere. Hakuouki Hekketsuroku was a good series, it was one of the few sequels (if I can call it a sequel) that was better than the first part.

  13. Finally I finished watching this anime and get to post my comment now. I ended up not crying because I saw the spoilers before it. Couldn’t help myself from all that waiting. So I just cried for not crying at “that” moment. Loved how Hijikata wins the final duel for the shinsengumi after the dreadful war losses. Plus double the fan-service in one good wrap-up episode. (A conclusion worth dying to see.) IMO you don’t see that many anime like that with a historical genre to it. Thumbs up!

  14. Just saying, if you like this, you might want to try bakumatsu kikansetsu irohanihoheto – an anime that aired quite a while back. It’s set in the same period, with fantasy and a little romance. While the Shinsengumi isn’t the main focus, you get to see a different version of hijikata, definitely a more realistic one(: oh well, hijikata as a bishie I still <3 more.

    Might i mention, the soundtrack for bki is awesome.

  15. I am having a love hate relationship with this series. I love it cuz the art is gorgeous, the music is amazing, the storyline is fascinating, and it’s just mega awesome. But the deaths of everyone nearly killed me. I was devastated with the ending, i really was expecting Toshi to survive. I was really mad that he didn’t, and I still kind of am. But thinking about it, the creators are trying to stay true to the real Shisengumi? I dunno… Oh, but Chizuru’s character. Dang, she has to be one of the most annoying female leads ever! I was so hoping she would do something other than being moral support and a blood bank. Grr, but I still felt really sorry for her when Toshi died, cuz she was all alone again. And whenever a protagonist is alone, my heart goes out to them, so part of my hatred for her dissipated.


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